Managing foreign labour: Singapore's delicate balancing actBY JOHN PAUL CANONIGO
Recently, a Washington DC-based global migration policy think-tank released a report that shown Singapore's foreign population doubled in a ten-year period since 2010 with 34.7% of the total workforce are non-locals. With a country having low population growth and an ever-increasing foreign immigration in the horizon, is a demographic time bomb slowly ticking away?
Managing the foreign labour situation can be a delicate thing because many industries and crucial services that keep Singapore up and running is dependent on them.
Why Dependent on Foreign Workers?
The rapid influx of foreign workers from neighbouring countries has become a sensitive immigration and economic issue that left some Singaporeans divided as to how to manage the situation. Curtailing the increase of foreign labour force by implementing stringent laws in approving work pass and permanent resident applications may hurt Singapore's industries dependent on foreign talents.
But economists know that the key to the country's economic success is its capability to attract foreign investments and capital. Without technical know-how and skilled labour from its neighbours, Singapore would have a hard time keeping up with the demands of running its country like a well-oiled machine.
Historically, the influx of foreigners have played a big part in the social and economic dynamics of this island nation. Ideally situated between the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Singapore has offered tremendous economic opportunities for its larger but less developed neighbours like Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Even the globally emerging markets of China and India have even fell into the orbit of Singapore's free market economy. With higher quality of living, efficient transport system, and impressive infrastructure, the country will never run out of tourists and people looking to find their “luck” but how about the locals who feel the impact of this changing demographic landscape?
Perhaps, this trend is fast becoming a double-edged sword after all – appeasing locals or embracing foreign.
What makes this island nation special to the outsiders? All throughout Singapore's formative years since its founding by Sir Stanford Raffles to its transformation into a financial and economic giant, its global success story was built upon the labour of foreign workers.
In over 200 years, many people left their distant towns in India and some risked to escape poverty from farflung Chinese villages in order to start something new in their new home in.
Fast forward to the present day, Filipinos, Thais, Indonesians, and other people from developing countries look up to Singapore as the perfect place to better their socio-economic condition.
If multicultural Singapore has managed to patch up differences in their ethnic and religious lines perfectly well then there is no reason that the management of the foreign workforce cannot be done.
Locals should be open minded about the pros and cons of depending on outsiders to do things right. Although the entry of foreign talents has helped Singapore reaped progress and modernity at such a rapid pace, there are concerns and reservations that the locals are being pushed beyond their comfort zones as they lose to cheap foreign competition.